Thoughts About the Scripture for Sunday March 24th
Scripture for this Week: Luke 12:57- 13:9
Scripture for Next Week: Luke 15:1–3 11b–32
Jesus is on fire! He is laying down the Gospel in no-holds barred form and challenging all comers. He has just very bluntly told the crowd to whom he is preaching that he has come to transform the world. He has come to shake things up, to burn away the chaff, to separate the people who actually do God’s will from the people who self-righteously say they do God’s will. He has come to awaken the people who have been acting or pretending that they are followers of God. He desires to help them read the signs of the spiritual times. “Play-actors!” Jesus cries out. Yes, ‘hypocrites’ is how most translations describe what he says. But that word at the time meant someone who is playing a role in a drama. “Why are you always at each other’s throats? Why do you hold grudges against each other and sue each other? Don’t you realize you are acting against the way that God has taught you? You are following the ways of the world instead of the ways of God!” And the response he received then is far too often the response Jesus receives today.
They changed the subject.
Why is it that when Jesus offers challenging words about how we should open our own hearts to the Gospel, we end up looking for other people to make us look better by comparison? “Jesus those Galileans who Pilate killed must have done something wrong to earn God’s punishment!” (Luke 13.1)
We do it all the time. The major Christian denominational bodies have led the way, but we as individuals have a deep responsibility for learning how to follow the way of Jesus. We cannot say, “My denomination made me do it.” If our denominations are out of alignment, we have the responsibility for being agents of realignment. Christians have a long history of excluding people from the love of God. I wonder how God feels about that?
- Women are not capable of leading Bible studies and are not allowed to be pastors.
- The Bible says that it is God’s will that white people own slaves.
- Only white men are allowed to vote.
- HIV/AIDS is God’s punishment for gay people.
- LGBTQ+ people are incompatible with Christian teaching.
- Catholics are barred from heaven.
- Protestants are barred from heaven.
- Democrats are our enemies and I can prove it because I am a Christian.
- Republicans are our enemies and I can prove it because I am a Christian.
All of this and so much more supported by “The Bible told me so.”
But what does Jesus say?
You shall love the Lord, your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength, and your neighbor as yourself. Actually a lawyer said that, and Jesus affirmed it, then said, “Do this and you will live (Luke 10:27).”
In our scripture today, Jesus again says, in effect, stop judging other people, and love them. Change your hearts and lives or you will die. Clearly Jesus is talking about spiritual death here. When we continuously judge and condemn other people, saying that they are not acceptable to God so that we can give ourselves an excuse not to love them, we are killing our own souls.
And the ‘Bible says’ is not an acceptable answer. For every truth we try to claim by using a particular Bible verse, I can show you several that counter act that verse. Except: You shall love the Lord, your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength, and your neighbor as yourself. Do this and you will live. This is the theme that courses through the Bible from beginning to end.
The reality is that hurt people, scared people, angry people, are the people who generally hurt and condemn others.
When we are getting ready to judge someone, yell at someone, or condemn someone, Jesus asks us to stop. Take a deep breath, and then go and build a relationship with that person. Perhaps when we discover who they are and how they are hurting, Often, we will see that they are just exactly like us.
This, I believe, is the meaning of the final parable in today’s reading about the tree that won’t bear fruit. Perhaps the tree that is not bearing fruit is the relationship we have with that other person or group of people. Perhaps Jesus is asking us to till the soil of that relationship, fertilize it, and tend to it for at least a year or two before we consider cutting it down.
The people called Methodists follow Jesus in developing relationships by living what we call the three simple rules.
- Do no harm
- Do all the good you can
- Develop your relationship with God.
Perhaps if we are not giving our lives to these rules, we are just acting.
May you be filled with God’s peace